Head for the Hills, Davy Crockett
Some true survival guides
By Steven Robert Allen
Alibi fast-food critic Nick Brown knows a thing or two about survival. A member of the highly secretive Green Chile Militia for the past 19 years, he spends three weeks every summer training with fellow survivalists deep in the Gila Wilderness near Silver City.
Not surprisingly, Brown, who once killed a mountain lion with his bare hands, keeps a comprehensive selection of survival guides in his bathroom. "I find that I'm at my most receptive during bowel movements," he says. "Something about reading while sitting on the can makes dense, complicated information easier to absorb."
With this in mind, we asked Brown to provide us with a few of his favorite bathroom reads. He shared with us a veritable treasure trove of survivalist lore. If you want to get the skinny on everything from how to set a hanging snare to how to construct your own bow and arrows to how to dress an abdominal wound, these guides are ideal references. Most of them are fun to read, too.
Department of the Army Field Manual FM 21-76: Survival, Evasion and Escape
(Department of the Army, paper)
Brown's edition of this manual was published in 1969. This compact but full color field guide is a survivalist classic. It's broken into three sections. The survival section provides information about how to keep yourself alive when you're not being pursued. The evasion section gives advice on how to get away from an enemy that's pursuing you. The escape section gives information for helping you get free when you've already been captured.
For our purposes, of course, the first section is the most relevant. It begins with a helpful mnemonic device. Remember this the next time you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere with only a pocket knife and half a bag of Cheetos:
Size up the situation
Undue haste makes waste
Remember where you are
Vanquish fear and panic
Act like the natives
Learn basic skills
If this seems a little too abstract, not to worry. The guide is also chock-full of useful advice on the nitty-gritty practicalities of survival. One subsection shows you how to use the stars and sun as a compass. Another illustrates how to build your own raft. Still another talks about how to construct your own improvised fishhooks.
The writing style is a simple, no-frills affair, but it's surprisingly poetic for a government tome. Take this sentence, for example, from a subsection called "Danger from Mammals": "Old exiles or hermits such as elephants, boars, or buffaloes that have been cast off by the heard are often cantankerous or belligerent." Has a kind of simple yet profound lyricism to it, don't you think?
The guide's visual attractiveness alone is enough to recommend it. Despite the plain beige cardboard cover, the innards are filled with attractive line drawings and color illustrations of edible berries, birds, poisonous snakes, etc. This is a nifty little book that would make a fine addition to your own bathroom survivalist library.
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